The use of fluorescent light bulbs helps slash energy use and reduces waste, because the bulbs last 10 times longer and use 75 percent less energy than the older incandescent bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs are available as CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs) or longer light tubes, ranging from 2 to 8 feet. The 4-foot fluorescent light tubes contain about 8 mg of mercury, so you must handle them like other hazardous waste products. Your disposal options include recycling or bringing the bulbs to a hazardous waste center.
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Call your local sanitation department and ask about hazardous waste drop-off sites near you. Ask them about any fees that may apply. Some drop-off sites may accept CFLs free of charge, but others may charge for a 4-foot tube. Likewise, some hazardous waste facilities may accept light tubes from households free of charge, but they may charge a business for disposal.
Ask your sanitation department about recycling centers near you that accept fluorescent light tubes. Some home improvement stores offer fluorescent light recycling programs. Alternatively, visit LampRecycle.org, an organization that offers a list of nearby recycling centers.
Place a broken fluorescent light tube in a resealable plastic bag. Place that bag inside another resealable plastic bag and dispose of the light tube in your household trash. If the 4-foot long tube will not fit inside a resealable plastic bag, double-bag it in plastic garbage bags and tie them off tightly.
Never place a fluorescent light bulb in your recycling bin, whether it is a light tube or a CFL.
- Montgomery County of Division of Solid Waste Services: How to Recycle/Dispose of Light Bulbs and Tubes, Fluorescent (CFL)
- Washington Department of Ecology: Fluorescent and High Intensity Discharge Lamps
- NYC Department of Sanitation: Lighting
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Cleaning Up a Broken CFL